Knee deep in osteoarthritis research

17 May, 2012
Knee deep in osteoarthritis research
X-ray of an Osteroarthritic knee.

Physiotherapist and AUT Master’s student Brydie Harris is currently investigating cardiovascular fitness in people with Osteoarthritis of the knee.

In New Zealand it’s estimated that 16.2% of the population over the age of 15 years will be living with some form of arthritis. The economic cost of arthritis in New Zealand is estimated at $2.35 billion; specific health sector costs accounted for $563.5 million with hip and knee arthritis accounting for a 70% share of that.

Osteoarthritis is a widespread and debilitating condition, says Brydie. “It’s typically characterised by pain, joint stiffness and joint inflammation and is often associated with significant physical disability.”

"Osteoarthritis of the knee is a disease process associated with cartilage damage, bone thickening and new bone growth. It is common in the aging population and is often associated with reduced activity levels and reduced cardiovascular fitness. This is thought to contribute to a number of other health related problems.”

The research team - led by AUT’s Professor Peter McNair and Associate Professor Duncan Reid - will look at the difference in cardiovascular fitness in individuals with knee Osteoarthritis and age and gender matched healthy individuals.

The study will involve two tests performed using a stationary exercise bike. These tests are standardised clinical and laboratory tests used to measure cardiovascular fitness. Brydie is also interested in how accurately a standard clinical fitness test predicts cardiovascular capacity in individuals with knee osteoarthritis.

“There has already been considerable research in advocating exercise based treatment in the conservative management of Osteoarthritis. Results indicate reduced pain levels, increased strength and flexibility, reduced joint stiffness and improved overall function. There is limited research in the area of cardiovascular fitness and Osteoarthritis. If cardiovascular fitness is to be improved in people with Osteoarthritis appropriate assessment tests are required."